A study published recently in the journal Obesity shows that people in romantic relationships are more likely to become fat. The researchers analyzed two large sets of data to spot the correlation. They found that couples who lived together for two or more years were more likely to overeat at meal times, exercise less and plop down on the couch more than singles or people not living with a romantic partner. So is there now hard evidence to back up the cliche of being fat and happy?
There’s certainly data showing we’re getting fatter as a state and nation. Hawaii has one of the highest rates of obesity in the US. In 2004 (the latest State data), the State Department of Health reports that 49.5% of people living in Hawaii are either overweight or obese. In case you weren’t following, that’s half the population here. Worse, obesity rates in Hawaii have been increasing over the past ten years, just like those on the Mainland. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in 2007, 21.7% of Hawaii residents were obese (excluding those who are overweight).
There’s also data to suggest that people may be happier with their relationships. CDC divorce statistics show that the divorce rate has decreased over the past ten years, down to 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2007 from 4.0 per 1,000 people in 2000 — just as the obesity rate has increased.
In Hawaii, divorce trends are equally rosy, with the rates declining to under 3.7 per 1,000 people in 2002 (The last year reported — Hawaii and a few other states no longer report divorce data to the CDC.) However, marriage rates are also declining, making it slightly more complicated to tease out why there are now fewer divorces in the US. But recent data suggest that when couples move in and get fat, they tend to stay together — right there on the couch in front of the TV with some ice cream.